Owners of historic Baer House find job in the home’s history and its legacy

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Baer House, located on Grove Street in downtown Vicksburg, is one of only a few Eastlake Victorian style homes in the South.

Owned by Corey and Patricia Rickrode, the home is one of the city’s bed and breakfast inns.

Eastlake architecture is part of the Queen Anne style of Victorian architecture.

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The home was built by Leona and Lazrus Baer in 1870, and at the time of construction, Patricia Rickrode said a brick structure was located on the site that dated back prior to 1850.

The Baer family was of German Jewish descent and Lazrus Baer was a downtown merchant.

The home boasts beautiful high ceilings, elaborate moldings and a stair rail made from American chestnut wood, which is now extinct.

A massive ballroom was once situated to the right of the entryway, and Rickrode said Leona Baer was famous for the elaborate parties she held.

“The ball room was about 75 feet long and had three matching fireplaces and five matching chandeliers all in one continuous room,” Rickrode said.

Also, Leona Baer was adamant about offering her guests hospitality and an indoor outhouse was constructed.

The structure still remains and Rickrode said it is the only remaining “two-story, four-hole outhouse in Mississippi.”

“The home also retains a lot of the original Jewish symbols from when the Baer family lived here,” she said. “We are not Jewish, but we love that the home retains those reminders of past residents.”

There were four Baer children, all of whom were born in the house.

The family lived in the home until the death of their father in 1924.

The Williams family then moved into the home with their seven children and two more were born later.

Rickrode said unlike Mrs. Baer, Mrs. Williams used the large ballroom as a playroom for her children.

“When the kids were little they used to play in here. They would ride their bikes in here and roller skate in here,” Rickrode said.

“This beautiful floor still has grooves in the floor from the old roller skates and there are even chink marks in wainscoting from roller skates.”

At some point in time, Rickrode said, the Williams began taking in boarders and the large room was turned into three apartments.

Rickrode assumed this may have taken place during the depression and after all the kids had moved out.

Although boarders did reside in the home, Rickrode said she and her husband find it unique that for the first 106 years of the home’s life, only two families resided there.

At the back of the downstairs hallway, two old photographs hang on the wall, one of the Williams family and the other is a picture with one of the Baer children pictured in it.

Following the Williams family departure from the home, Rickrode said the Ramsay law firm took up residence for the next almost 20 years.

“It then became a private residence again,” Rickrode said, with Weber Brewer and his wife purchasing the home.

After living in the house for only a few years, the Brewers sold it to Doug Cousineau.

Doug moved to Vicksburg after he lost his home to Katrina and converted the home into a bed and breakfast in 2005, Rickrode said.

The house was furnished when the Rickrodes bought it, but during the course of time, they have switched out pieces that are more to their decorating styles.

“Our tastes and decorating styles are vastly different from the previous owners, so we’ve brought in more period antiques and pieces that tell a story. We’ve re-themed the rooms and are still in the process of redecorating every guest room.”

As far as original furnishings from the Baer family days, there are only two very large, hand-carved mirrors that were designed specifically in the Eastlake style, to adorn the matching mantles in the ladies’ and the gentlemen’s parlors, and a built-in armoire in the upstairs hallway that remain,” she said.

And what would an old home be without ghosts?

The Baer House Inn is one of several homes that is on the haunted Vicksburg tours, Rickrode said, saying the guest have reported various supernatural happenings during their stay.

Rickrode said she and her husband moved to Vicksburg from California and wanted to open a bed and breakfast somewhere in the South.

“I had been in the legal professional for about 30 years and was so done with that career. I wanted to do something completely different,” she said. “We initially were looking for homes and ranches in North Carolina. While we were there we got turned on to the idea of buying a bed and breakfast, because it sort of killed two birds with one stone: a place to live and a built in job.”

Rickrode said they decided on Vicksburg because of its history, and, “It felt comfortable here,” she said.

“We liked the friendly atmosphere of the town and the small town feel of the community.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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